"And in despair I bowed my head: 'There is no peace on earth,' I said, 'For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.'
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: 'God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.'"
It has taken me a while to understand why the words above move me so deeply. I've always felt drawn to this song, but have never been able to identify why. This year, I am starting to understand why these words stir me so.
Yesterday, I sat down at our extended Christmas table and had an amazing dinner with extended family. It felt perfect, wonderful, and...peaceful. Everything felt right in my world. Yet, as I bowed my head to say grace, it occurred to me that I have friends whose worlds are not at peace.
I have a friend whose mother is battling cancer.
I have friends whose little toddler is battling pediatric heart disease.
Cancer. Pediatric heart disease.
Cancer. Pediatric heart disease.
I get it now. When I reflect upon a world that has a place for cancer and pediatric heart disease, I want to sing the first stanza quoted above, "And in despair I bowed my head, 'There is no peace on earth,' I said, 'For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.'"
Hate is strong...and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.
Cancer is strong...and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.
Pediatric heart is disease is strong...and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.
Are the words pronounced by the angel in Luke 2 even true, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men?" How can God's good will be resting on a family whose less than one year old child is battling heart disease? How can God's good will be resting on a family whose mother has had to battle multiple past cancers and is once again fighting for her life?
"There is no peace on earth," I said.
If the story ends with cancer and pediatric heart disease, I'm out.
But then, I am reminded of what the little baby in a manger was/is all about...God with us. To quote the angel that appeared unto Joseph and the Old Testament prophet, "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is God with us."
God With Us.
That little baby that was laid in a feeding trough would grow up and quote the following words from the Old Testament:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord."
"He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted," including less-than-one-year-olds whose physical heart is literally broken.
"He hath sent me to set at liberty them that are bruised," including those bruised from IVs and chemo lines.
"He hath sent me to preach the acceptable year of the Lord."
That little baby was not just a little baby. That little baby was Emmanuel, God-with-us.
God with the parents whose little baby is sick.
God with the children whose parent is sick.
A God-With-Us is not dead nor doth he sleep. A God-with-us will make sure that the wrong shall fail and the right prevail, and that there will be a day when there will once again be complete peace on earth, good will to men.
We may grieve and ache and hurt until that day. But we anxiously wait, just like the prophets of old waited for the promise of Emmanuel to be fulfilled. We wait until that day when the following words will be true...
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people (Emmanuel), and he will dwell with them (Emmanuel). They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God (Emmanuel). ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”” (Revelation 21:3-4 NIV)
God will once again be Emmanuel and there will be no more death, no more crying, no more pain, no more little children battling pediatric heart disease, no more moms fighting cancer. The old order of things will pass away and that same gift and promise we celebrate today will be once again, God-With-Us.
Paul is the husband to Tara, father to Natalie and Isaac, has an average jump shot, and enjoys running. His secret wish is to one day become a Jedi Knight. Paul holds a doctorate in marriage and family counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and currently serves as senior pastor of Harrodsburg Baptist Church. Paul desires to help young couples navigate the early crucibles of marriage, especially when one or both of the spouses are engaged in vocational ministry.